Magic Carrot Custards

Adapted from Vegetable Heaven
Preparation time: 1 1/2 hours (15 minutes of work)
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

As these fragrant custards bake, they turn a creamy shade of yellow on the outside and a beautiful deep rust color on the inside. It's like magic.

  • Serve these for light supper or a brunch, with toasted baguette and a big green salad.

  • Use fresh carrot juice (the kind you find in a deli or health food store refrigerator), rather than canned. Or better, yet, press your own in a juicer, if you have one.

  • Custard keeps well if stored in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator, and can be reheated in a microwave at a low power. (However, the color will not hold.)

1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups minced onion
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried sage
4 cups fresh carrot juice
6 eggs
1 cup milk (lowfat or soy okay)
A little melted butter or oil spray for the ramekins

1 medium-sized carrot, julienned and lightly steamed
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a folded kitchen towel neatly in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Grease or oil-spray 4 12-ounce (or 6 8-ounce) ramekins, custard cups, or ovenproof bowls, and place them on top of the towel.
  2. Melt the butter in a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and sauté over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until soft and translucent.
  3. Stir in another 3/4 teaspoon salt, the garlic, and the herbs, and sauté for about 2 minutes longer. Add the carrot juice, bring to a boil, then turn the heat way down. Simmer uncovered until the carrot juice is reduced by about half. This should take 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Combine the eggs and milk in a medium-large bowl, and beat slowly with a fork. (If you beat it too vigorously, you will incorporate air bubbles, and the custard won't be as smooth.)
  5. Place a fine sieve or a cheesecloth-lined strainer over the bowl, and strain in the carrot juice mixture, pressing all the liquid from – then discarding – the solids. Gently stir together the egg and carrot mixtures until thoroughly blended.
  6. Stir from the bottom one more time (the custard separates quickly as it stands), and immediately ladle it into the ramekins. Pour hot (not boiling) water into the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until just set.
  7. Remove the ramekins from the pan, let them cool for 5 minutes, then loosen the sides with a dinner knife, and unmold onto a plate. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, garnished with steamed, julienned carrots and sprigs of fresh, flowering thyme and/or purple sage blossoms, if available.
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